Do They Know It’s Christmas?

I originally wrote this post on December 22, 2011. It still rings true today!

Something to Think About this Christmas SeasonI have not been in a very festive spirit this December at all. I’m not quite sure why I feel this way. Every year I eventually get into the spirit! I do opt not to make it a materialistic extravaganza every year but at least I am somewhat in the spirit…this year…NADA!!!
On Saturday we went to Sosua for a fund raiser put on by Sosua Kids. It was a nice event. They had face painting, a bouncy castle, little games for the kids, performances by local groups and tons of Christmas music! I have to say it was a little odd listening to “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” and other winter related music when it was 30 above, sunny and no snow anywhere!
But still that isn’t it.
The community we live in is a very poor community. No so much right where we are but a short walk down the road, past the colmado is sheer destitution and desperation. Parents sell their young daughters for prostitution for money to feed the rest of the family. Kids that can’t go to school because the parents can’t afford school uniforms. Parents that are alcoholics or drug addicts and the children suffer because of their addictions. I’m sure that there are more stories as well.
The kids sang a song for their singing class that came out in 1984 by Band-Aid for relief funds for Africa. The song was called Do They Know It’s Christmas. None of the other kids in the group seemed to care about how this same thing was going on all around them on the island. They only cared about what THEY were getting for Christmas. 
Today, I was at the Colmado and Johannie (Yo-annie) said “Reina look Santa Claus!” as she pointed at a Coke poster on the wall. I said “Yes! What is going to bring you?” She smiled and gave me a puzzled look. She said “I don’t know”. I asked her what she wanted and again she looked at me like I had suddenly grown a second head. She smiled again and shrugged her shoulders….motioned with her hand that I was crazy…giggled and walked out to play with another child. It was as if to say “You crazy white woman, poor children don’t get what they want from Santa”. She truly had no idea what I was talking about. She recognizes Santa like she recognizes the symbol for Coke or Pepsi but that’s it…it doesn’t make her excited about what she might get from Santa…in her little life there are no gifts like that. She will be lucky if she gets new school shoes for Christmas. Her Grandmother Fatima was asking me what we do for Christmas. I told her we make a big meal and invite our friends and family to share with us. She said they do the same. For them its all about family and nothing more. 

So while all my friends in the rest of the world are worried about whether they can get that perfect gift for their children, if the local grocery store will have a big enough turkey, if there will be snow this year for Christmas and other frivolous things…please remember that there are children in the world that don’t know its Christmas. They know what Christmas is but for them it isn’t something that brings fond memories to mind. It is just another day of little or no food and hard work to get the bare necessities of life.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Life in a Developing Country

This is an old blog post I wrote back in January of 2012
1. Nestle SUCKS! I say this because the majority of these people can barely afford to feed themselves yet have been convinced that their babies are starving because they want to nurse every 2-3 hours as newborns. They then start using formula and have to water it down to make it go further! Grrrrr! 
2. Garbage doesn’t just go away after you put it in the bin! We see this everyday. In Canada we put the garbage in the bin and never thought of it again. We honestly thought we were a pretty green family. Recycling and such. Here you see that garbage everyday everywhere! They do have a recycling program but it doesn’t “pay” like it does in Canada so there is no incentive to recylcle.
3. Your to do list is never ending! Because there are no malls or Walmart super centre here…it takes alot of looking to find what you need! 
4. Most people with nothing in their pocket will you give you anything if you need it! These people are so happy and giving! They all say “hi” and have the time to stop and play with baby for a few minutes or talk to the kids and ask if they like it here. At home adults rarely care about the kids especially if they don’t know them! Even here, other American adults don’t have the time of day for our family. They are polite when we talk to them but they want to get away from as soon as possible. 
5. As long as it runs, its a good vehicle! There are vehicles on the road without doors and major parts that are considered necessity where we come from. If it drives then its still a good car! 
6. A good family vehicle is NOT a mini van as per American standards…it is a motorbike! You can stack up to 7 people on one of those babies!
7. Never assume you know what you are eating….if in doubt…it’s probably better not to ask…especially if you think it tastes good! We have learned not to ask what things are once we like them! You probably don’t want to know that you are eating pig testicles or anything else!
8. Toilet seats are a luxury as is toilet paper, a locking door or even a door at all in public bathrooms here. We PAID to use the bathroom at the beach. Granted it was clean but the bathroom stalls had NO DOORS!!! They had a very short curtain and it didn’t cover the entire door way!
9. If you ever wanted to be a fashion designer this is the place to test your wares! The styles are totally out there. Some are still in the 80’s like metalic leggings and some is so ugly I can’t imagine someone would buy it! There are NO goth stores much to my dismay….not that I’m saying anything that isn’t goth is ugly but I am really not into a patterned HOT pink tube top with BRIGHT YELLOW harem pants that show your panties!
10. Underwear is PART of the fashion. The men here wear their pants half way down there but….that’s fine that do that where we come from…well most of the young guys. I’m just happy to see that they are wearing clean undies under those pants! However the women wear thin little SHORT skirts…what my friend Rob refers to as “duck skirts” because if they bent over their quack would hang out! Anyway they wear these thin little numbers…most are see through and then they wear PATTERNED undies so everyone can see them. So I have decided that in this country the undies are part of the fashion! The brighter and snazzier the better! If you have white pants you WANT to wear red and black zebra patterned G-string panties!

10 Ways to Make Money While Traveling

  1. Teach English Over Seas: You can teach English overseas in many different locations. Ideally you should have a bachelors degree but it isn’t always necessary. Most places will give you an apartment in your contract. http://www.daveseslcafe.com has job boards to search for jobs, ask questions from others, lesson ideas and more.
  2. Teach English Online: You can sign up as a tutor and teach English online. http://www.buddyschool.com is one option for this. When you make your profile, be sure you are professional. If you have not taught before start with a lower pay rate. You can always raise it later.
  3. Sell Your Skills: You can offer your skills on http://www.fiverr.com for various prices and make some cash. Everything from logos, web design and other technical stuff to giving relationship advice!
  4. Utilize Your Skills: Think about what your skills are and use them! If you take good photos and have the equipment, take photos and sell them to tourists. Make jewelry from beach finds and sell them.
  5. Drop Shipping: With sites like http://www.aliexpress.com it is easy to do drop shipping. Find something that you know others will want and take orders, with a mark up of course. I found some great Frozen costumes one year. I placed ads on facebook groups and on my personal page. I kept track of orders. I ordered from the site and entered each persons mailing address. Tada! I made money and everyone got their products!
  6. Write: If you like writing and are passionate about something, consider writing an ebook! http://www.lulu.com allows you to write a book and publish it as an ebook and print book option.
  7. Sell Something: In the past I have ordered phones and tablets online and sold them to locals. We usually frequent developing countries and stay with the locals. The majority of these people don’t have a credit card and can’t order things online.  I order one or two tablets and phones and then sell them when they come in. Before long word gets around that I do this and I have no problem selling my wares!
  8. Start an Online Store: You can open an online store fairly easily. Add items that you find along the way.
  9. Rent Out an Extra Room: We rented a large 5 bedroom house in one country. We put 2 extra rooms, both with ensuite bathrooms, on http://www.airbnb.com. This worked well for us. We also put ads for our rooms in facebook groups for the area and other online places.
  10. Tutoring: Offer tutoring in your native tongue. I also offer math tutoring. I’ve also run a preschool in the past that focused on learning English through play.

13 Hacks for Free (or almost free) Travel

1. Stay with Locals: Www.couchsurfing.org is a great resource for finding a place to stay with another traveler for a night or two all over the world. It’s best to open an account. Fill in as many sections of the profile as you can and include some photos. Experienced couchsurfing hosts will rarely host someone with a blank profile and no photos. As well when requesting to stay with a host, be polite and give as many details as you can. Also mention something about the person that you read in their profile. For example for me, I like the person to mention something about my kids so I know that they have read my profile and are aware that we don’t sleep in until 2pm!

2. House Sit: Www.trustedhousesitters.com is another great resource for the budget traveler. Keep in mind that the person seeking a house sitter is trusting you with their HOME. This can mean a huge investment for the home owner. So be professional. Do some housesitting for friends and family locally to get some experience and references. Make sure your profile is professional and has photos of you. Sell yourself well!
3. Work for Your Board: Www.workaway.info is an opportunity for you to work 4-5 hours per day in exchange for room and board. It’s not for everyone but it can be a great experience. There are a mirriad of opportunities availableall over the world. Make sure you work out the details of what you will be doing in exchange for your room and board before you get to your hosts home. 
4. Share a Meal with a Local: Www.mealsharing.com is a great way to meet locals in new areas and share a meal with them. There is a nominal fee for the cost of the meal but it is a great experience

Www.vizeat.com is relatively new. You can take a cooking class, get a tour of a local area or share a meal with a local for a nominal fee. 

Www.eatwith.com is another meal sharing venue. 
 5. Use Local Resources: Check bulletin boards at local libraries, super markets, community centres etc for announcements for free food and community activities in the area. Also check Facebook groups for local areas as well. Sometimes even googling “free things to do in (wherever you are) this weekend” will give a lot of things available. 

There are numerous Facebook couchsurfing groups for different locations. Join the group (you can leave the group when you leave the area). In the past we’ve found a place to go for a barbecue or for dinner with another couchsurfers. Community activities that are free or low cost.

6. Camp: If you have camping equipment http://www.freecampsites.net is a great resource for finding free camping spots across Canada and the USA. Some are just Walmart parking lots but others are actual camp sites in nature! 
7. Dumpster Dive: Dumpster diving can create an abundance of free food. Www.trashwiki.org has information on dumpster diving in various locations around the globe. 

8.  Barter Your Skills: Www.worldpackers.com allows you make a barter of your skills with hostels around the world. You get a bed in exchange for some work done for the hostel.

9. Work for Your Stay:Www.wwoof.net has been around for decades. It runs on the same premise as workaway, you work a few hours a day in exchange for room and board. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Therefore the majority of the hosts are in rural communities.


10.  Deliver Items: Www.grabr.io allows you to make some money while traveling. Basically you buy a product where you are and deliver it to a person. In return you get a small stipend. However if you plan this so you are going that way anyway, you won’t be wasting time or money.

11.  Places of Worship:A lot of churches will allow you to spend the night if you ask. Be polite and courteous when asking. Be sure to look presentable. Most mosques will do a free tour and free lunch after if you call and ask for this service.

12. Social Media: Use social media. Everyone has social media these days. Use it for what it’s for and network with others for places to stay and eat!

13. Craigslist: Place a free ad stating that you are willing to do odd jobs in exchange for a meal or place to stay. You can also use Craigslist for finding free activities and meals around the area you will be in. 

Once you are accustomed to looking for free food and activities it is easy to find and becomes a way of life. It becomes second nature to look for free accommodation and food while traveling.

How We Afford This Life

I am a single mom of 6 kids. Only the two youngest kids are currently living with me at the moment. We are worldschoolers. We have been on the road since 2011. I truly love our nomadic life. We have so many amazing adventures. I get to spend time with my kids and see the world through their eyes, watching the wonder as they explore new and exciting things regularly.

Before we hit the road in 2011 in our converted school bus, we lived in an older house in a small farming community. We moved to that house the year before, because we had financial difficulties and were finding it hard to make ends meet in the big city where we had lived since 2001. I grew up in this city and it has always been home to me.
I get asked frequently by other single moms who wish to live the dream of a worldschooling life, ¨How do you afford it?¨. This is a rather tough question! In all honestly I traded our monthly bills of living in a house, for different monthly bills that you need to pay when you are nomadic like we are.
As a comparison of what things cost and how I afford this life, I will show you my monthly budget from when we lived in a house and our budget now.
Budget from living in a house:
Rent or house payment $1000 (if you own your house outright that is GREAT!!! However most people don´t)
Food $800
Car Maintenance $200
Utilities $300
Insurance $200
Internet and TV $130
Phone $20
Activities $300
Fuel for the van $300 (this was a very modest amount…we didnt drive much unless we really had to!)
For a total of $3250
Our budget was VERY modest. We owned a very old van that ran well. So we had no vehicle payments. I have no credit cards so there are no payments for those either. The kids have never gotten allowance.
Budget for Living on the Road:
Rent $150 (4 bedroom place with LOTS of space in a nice little village)
Power $30
Internet $30
Phone $20
Netflix $8
Public transport $50
ABC Mouse $12
Food $400
Activities $200
Savings for emergencies $300
For a total of $1200 per MONTH
Even if you added in credit card payments per month or other debts that you have to pay per month, it would most likely be less than what you are paying to live right now.
I feel very strongly that how we choose to live is exactly that…a CHOICE. I make the choice to live this life, because it´s important to me. It´s important to me that we enjoy our time while we have it. I was not very happy when we lived a conventional life. I didn´t like working 7 days a week to just make ends meet. I had an in home daycare for eight years so that I could be home with my children and homeschool them, because that was important to me. I could have gone to work at a conventional job and put the kids in school and day care. However, I felt very strongly that it was best for my children and our little family to homeschool and be together.
Once you make the decission to hit the road, you will find that everything seems to fall into place. It is really refreshing!
To make money on the road, I do various things that generate income. Everyone will have a different way of making money on the road, just the same as no two people have the same conventional job to live a conventional life.
I have skills in photography. So I have taken my camera to the beach and other tourist areas wherever we are and taken photos of people. I have then sold the photos to my subjects. I used my tablet as a viewing screen and then just emailed them the photos of their choice. I had a long card made with samples of my work on one side and my prices on the other. I had this laminated and it made selling photos very simple on the road. I have also done weddings and portraits for people I meet along the way. Mostly ex pats are interested in this.
I have skills in teaching English. I have taught private classes. Another option is teaching in a school overseas. Getting a teaching job overseas is not hard at all. Many people teach overseas and really enjoy it. There are so many job offerings. Most of the schools are very accommodating if you are up front and honest with them from the very beginning. Teaching in a school overseas is great because you get paid a wage and you get accommodations included (usually but check your contract to be sure).
I have ordered things online for locals that don´t have a credit card (I have a Visa debit but it works like a credit card) or Paypal or anything like that. They pay me in local cash for the item with a little mark up and I order the item for them. I just recently started selling cell phones to locals where we are at the moment and I am making 75% markup on the phones. So that is good income for me!
I try not to stress over an exact amount needed for the month. We always make enough to make our payments. I find the less I stress, the better it is. Easier said than done I know!
So if you REALLY want to live the worldschooling life and head out on your own Epic EDventure, there is nothing stopping you from making that happen! If you need support, guidance or life coaching to get you on your way feel free to email me and I will help in anyway that I can! soultrekkingmom@gmail.com I am a solutions oriented person and I think anything is possible if you put your mind to it!